builds on the reality that communities have numerous resources and assets that, if they are mobilized strategically, can directly affect the health and well-being of children and adolescents. These resources and assets can be accessed through the nonprofit organizations that work directly with children and youth. Planning and community development agencies that determine the physical design and use of resources in the built environment, such as paths, parks, and neighborhoods, can make the built environment more user-friendly and thus encourage physical activity. Health care professionals and systems through which primary care services are delivered can address childhood obesity as part of their regular delivery of care. Faith-based organizations, community coalitions, foundations, and worksites can address community and family well-being and are increasingly doing so. Schools are also a vital asset that serve as a link between families and communities and have the capacity to strengthen and reinforce childhood obesity prevention strategies and initiatives and will be discussed more thoroughly in Chapter 7.
The present Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee recommends increased efforts to address the community-based recommendations presented in the Health in the Balance report (Box 6-1) and to incorporate an evaluation component into all policies, programs, and initiatives. This chapter highlights the key actions that need to be taken to activate a community’s assets around the common goal of preventing childhood obesity. It begins with a brief review of key strategies associated with effective community-based prevention efforts. That review is followed by examples of progress that focus on mobilizing communities, improving the built environment, and enhancing the role of health care providers and the health care system in childhood obesity prevention. The chapter concludes with recommendations for guiding communities to assess their progress in establishing promising childhood obesity prevention efforts.
Although communities may vary widely in their demographics and resources, efforts to engage communities in promoting healthy lifestyles generally involve active grassroots efforts that build on the strengths of the residents and the locale. Mobilizing community participation, developing partnerships, and creating synergistic actions were some of the many themes that emerged from the discussions at the committee’s symposium, Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: Focus on Communities, held in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 6 and 7, 2005, in collaboration with the Healthcare Georgia Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) (Appendix G). The key elements of community-based strategies are discussed below.